Materials List: Newton Rocket Car

If doing this activity as a demonstration for younger students, only one set of supplies/equipment is needed.

Each group needs:

  • 1 wooden block ~10 x 20 x 2.5 cm; note: any size block works as long as it is bigger than the fuel block, described next
  • 1 wooden block ~7.5 x 5 x 2.5 cm, as shown in Figures 1 and 3—the smaller wooden piece with holes drilled into it
  • 1 3-inch no. 10 wood screw (round head)
  • 2 1-inch no. 10 wood screws (round head)
  • 3 rubber bands, all the same size and thickness
  • several pieces of 3-5 inches of cotton string
  • 2 lead fishing sinkers or similar weights, about 1/2 ounce each
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 meter stick
  • masking tape
  • Newton Rocket Car Data Sheet, one per student
  • building toys with wheels, such as LEGO® or Tinkertoy®, each group needs 4 wheels; alternative: if toy blocks and wheels are not available, simply place the Newton rocket car on four or five short cylindrical wooden dowels that are roughly ½ -3/4 inches in diameter and the same length as the car width; lining up these dowels under and in front of the car creates a relatively low-friction rolling surface for the Newton rocket car, allowing it to slide smoothly across the floor or desk

To prepare the wooden weight blocks:

  • drill and bit; the bit size is determined by the diameter of the fishing sinkers or weights and screws
  • vice
  • screwdriver

A photograph shows a block of wood placed on a LEGO-type platform onto which four small rubber wheels are attached. A second, smaller wooden block with weights (fishing sinkers) resting inside four holes in the block rests on the bigger wooden block, and will be launched off the back of the vehicle via a rubber band.
Figure 1. An example Newton rocket car.
Copyright © 2003 Jeff White, College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Colorado Boulder